Financial Aid Requirements are standards based on students' needs that change yearly, and there is always a lot of confusion about what the most current, up-to-date, financial aid requirements are. This article will clarify this year's requirements, and this article will be updated as changes occur.
The 2010/2011 FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) financial aid requirements are based on income earned in 2009, the number of people in the household/number of household members in college, additional financial information from IRS Form 1040, line 49, or IRS Form 1040A, line 31, regarding education credits, child support paid (excluding children in one's own home), taxable earnings from employment programs where eligibility is determined by needs as well as fellowships or assistantships, grants, scholarships, combat pay, and cooperative education programs offered by colleges; and untaxed income, estimates of cash/savings/checking account balances, and information on certain investments owned. You are considered "dependent" if you answer NO to all of the questions, 46 through 58, in Step Three (Student), and you will therefore need your parents' income information, i.e., tax returns, cash/savings/checking account and asset information as well as your own tax information or tax returns.
You can get a FAFSA worksheet from any college/university as a cross-reference tool that you can fill out prior to officially applying online. (Or, you can download a .PDF of a color or black-and-white FAFSA at the FAFSA site below.)
Before you start the online application you will need to have applied for a PIN number at www.pin.ed. The PIN number is your electronic signature, and if you are a dependent student, have one of your parents apply for the PIN number as well because they, too, will have to electronically sign the FAFSA. You will use your PIN number to reapply every year, and if you are applying for Direct Loans through the Department of Education, your PIN number can also be used to sign your Master Promissory Note. If the FAFSA is submitted without a PIN number, it is considered invalid and will not create an Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which is a number that is formulated and determines what a student is eligible for. You can print out a paper signature page and mail to Central Processing; however, this will delay your application validation.
Once you have your PIN number and your FAFSA worksheet, it is now time to complete your online application at www.fafsa.ed. Please remember to read everything very carefully and thoroughly, and definitely make sure you understand exactly what the application is asking of you before you provide your answers. Many potential financial aid students and parents rush through this process, which can lead to inadvertently providing incorrect or misleading information and ultimately delaying the student's award or producing an inaccurate award.
Finally, double-check your answers or have a second set of eyes read over and verify that all of the information provided is true and correct. Now you should be ready to submit your application.
Once the application has been submitted electronically, the Department of Education will take up to 72 hours to process it and put it in your chosen school's electronic mailbox. You will receive an automated email confirmation from the Department of Education informing you that your application has been processed.
Finally, after you have received confirmation from the Department of Education that they have received and processed your application, check with your chosen school, and ask personnel from the financial aid department if there are any additional documents that will be required to complete your application. You should also check the "Comment Codes" on your Student Aid Report to make sure that everything has been processed accurately, and to make sure that your application is valid.
Important deadline dates for Federal Student Aid: submit your application as early as possible, but no earlier than January 1, 2010, and no later than June 30, 2011. Your college must have your current, correct, and complete information by the last day of enrollment in the 2010/2011 school year. Always check with your school for priority application dates as well as additional state grant deadline dates. You need to reapply for financial aid every year, and the applications are always made available on January 1st of every new year. The most important thing to remember is that, the FAFSA is a FREE application, so be sure to stay away from websites that charge to "help" people fill out the FAFSA or agencies that charge a fee for such services. Check your local community colleges, universities, or state university systems to find out if they are conducting workshops that can help assist you with completing the FAFSA application process if it is too difficult or you need assistance.